“The Queenstown Marathon has been cancelled due to the uncertainty created by the Government’s anti-science Covid-19 rules”, says ACT’s Tourism spokesperson James McDowall.

“The event is crucial to the region, bringing $10 million directly into the local economy and attracting over 12,000 people, and is the second busiest week of the year for Queenstown after New Year.

“The organisers have said: ‘With no clear indication of when we may move to the Orange setting, and with winter approaching, we’ve made the extremely difficult decision to cancel the 2021 event that was to be held on Saturday 19 March 2022’.

“This is another blow for a region already on its knees. Card spending for hospitality in Otago was down 45.5 per cent compared to two years ago, according to the latest data from MBIE.

“Sensible changes are desperately needed to the rules for outdoor events to prevent more economic pain.

“‘Controlled-access events’, including professional sports, can only go ahead under Red with up to 100 attendees or based on 1 metre distancing for each defined space.

“That means events are being cancelled or being played behind closed doors, like Super Rugby.

“What’s nuts is that the Government has set the same rules for indoor and outdoor events and for venues of different sizes.

“There’s much less risk of getting Omicron if you’re in a large outdoor venue, so it makes absolutely no sense to treat them the same – it’s anti-science.

“ACT has said all along that we need risk-proportionate rules – but here we are, two years into a pandemic, and the Government is still making one-size-fits-all rules.

“Instead of setting an arbitrary, hard limit of 100 for outdoors events, the Government could make a sensible change and allow numbers to be based on the size of the space.

“In fact, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has given just this advice to Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash.

“It said that, instead of hard limits on numbers, event organisers could use distancing requirements appropriate to the size of the space – 1 metre for Orange and 2 metres for Red.

“The costs of preventing vaccinated, socially-distanced people using outdoor venues surely outweigh the benefits.

“The rest of the world is opening up and we need to as well.”